Should Parents Get in Trouble for Letting a 10-Year-Old Walk Home?
From tiger moms to helicopter parents, there are a lot of whimsical metaphors that dictate how one should parent, theoretically—but Danielle and Alexander Meitiv think a lot of parents need to get real.
Their 10-year-old son and six-year-old daughter were picked up by police in Silver Spring, Maryland, last month after a concerned citizen saw them walking home from a park unsupervised and called the cops, The Washington Post reported.
The Meitivs say they are now being investigated for neglect by child protective services officials; the department can’t confirm that, because it protects child confidentiality.
The sticking point may be a state law that says children younger than eight must be left with someone who is 13 or older, child protective services spokeswoman Mary Anderson told the newspaper.
“Parenthood is an exercise in risk management,” Danielle Meitiv told the Post. “Every day, we decide: Are we going to let our kids play football? Are we going to let them do a sleepover? Are we going to let them climb a tree? We’re not saying parents should abandon all caution. We’re saying parents should pay attention to risks that are dangerous and likely to happen.”
The Meitivs believe in “free-range” parenting—the polar opposite of helicopter parenting, in which parents hover obsessively over kids—and usually have their kids carry around a card with their contact information that reads, “I am not lost. I am a free-range kid.”
By all appearances, the walk wasn't through a rough part of town. A little Google Maps stalking (Street View tells all) reveals that the stretch of Georgia Avenue the kids walked between Woodside Park and the Discovery Building is a tree-lined commercial district, with wide, clean sidewalks outside banks and other businesses. Weather records indicate it was sunny and an average of 37 degrees for the Dec. 20 walk.
The Meitivs—he’s a physicist, and she’s a climate science consultant—may feel like they’re in the right, but they haven't made this easy on themselves. They’ve resisted the process of having their home inspected, refusing to let in a child services social worker who showed up at their door.
Maybe they’ll make nice at a meeting with child protective services next week.